Matthew Guy wants to make Victorian manufacturing great again

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy wants to reclaim Victoria’s historic position as the manufacturing engine room of Australia with a $2.5 billion fund he says will create thousands of jobs.

In what is being touted as the biggest industry assistance program in the state’s history, Mr Guy will on Sunday tell the Liberal Party State Council he will set up a fund offering cash incentives to encourage local manufacturing businesses, innovation and research.

Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy.Credit:Joe Armao

“It will create thousands of jobs, provide huge certainty for our supply chains that are currently lacking and give career choices to young people, particularly those outside of Melbourne,” Mr Guy says in the speech.

“Investment in the private sector to create private sector jobs is what the Liberal and National parties do best. That is why at this critical time, we will make it a priority to recover and rebuild our manufacturing sector.”

The announcement represents one of the first election campaign salvos, a year out from the November, 2022 poll. The opposition wants to recalibrate to focus on jobs and economic growth after its law-and-order-focused 2018 state election disaster.

The $2.5 billion pitch – which would be spread over five years – will focus on manufacturing sectors of the state economy deemed likely to be of strategic and competitive importance in the future, including health and medicine, clean energy, recycling, rare earth processing as well as defence, transport and aerospace technologies. A taskforce would be set up to oversee the strategy.

The plan follows decades of decline in manufacturing employment in Victoria. Bureau of Statistics figures show manufacturing employment made up about 8.4 per cent of the Victoria’s total employment by the end of August 2021.

Three decades ago – before Victorian manufacturing was pummelled by recession, the demise of car making, the rise of China and a long-term structural shift towards other areas such as services, retail and health – manufacturing employment soaked up about 17.2 per cent of the total, more than double the current level.

That represents the loss of more than 57,000 Victorian manufacturing jobs since February 1991.

Industry policy has long been seen as a relative political strength for Labor. Mr Guy, who is trailing in opinion polls, said there would be a heavy focus on the regions.

Mr Guy said $1 billion of the $2.5 billion would be quarantined for regional manufacturing. The pitch more than doubles the $1 billion manufacturing plan outlined by the Coalition before the 2018 election.

Last year’s Victorian budget invested $125 million in various initiatives the government says will grow the manufacturing sector, including a new medical manufacturing centre, a manufacturing and industry development fund, an industry recovery fund, and a push to secure defence manufacturing contracts.

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